For many teachers, Bob Presley is the reason they came to Hays CISD. And in many cases, he’s the reason they’ve stayed. After nearly 20 years with Hays CISD and more than 43 years in the business, Presley is retiring as Deputy Superintendent, leaving a legacy of mentoring, hiring and mediation skills that won’t quickly be replaced. Perhaps the greatest gift he leaves behind, however, is a spirit of team: Team Hays for those 2,000 plus “insiders,” who work for the school district.
“Bob Presley epitomizes the Team Hays spirit,” said Carolyn Hitt, Hays CISD Executive Director of Human Resources. “He looks for the best, expects the best, and gives his best. He’s a human resources magnet, drawing people to our school district by the hundreds. I’m one of them. He sold me on Hays CISD over the telephone-before I even knew where Hays was.”
That spirit of team is quite fitting, given Presley entered the teaching profession in 1965 wanting to be a coach.
“My mother was a teacher and I enjoyed history, but I wanted to coach football,” he said. Presley attended college on a football scholarship and wanted to continue that through his professional career.
He spent seven years teaching and coaching before being recruited as assistant principal at Tulia High School and then New Braunfels High School. He and his wife, Judy, loved New Braunfels, but a job as principal at Tulia High School beckoned them away in 1975.
After one year in Tulia, Presley was contacted by New Braunfels ISD because the high school principal’s job was open.
“I told the superintendent in Tulia about the possibility of the job and he said, ‘Where am I going to find a principal in July?'” Presley said. “Well, I called everyone I knew to see if they would consider the job, but had no luck. I felt like I had to honor the contract (in Tulia), so I stayed another year.”
Isn’t it funny how things turn out?
His contacts in New Braunfels called to report that the Tivey High School principal’s job was open in Kerrville, an opportunity to be a high school principal in the Texas Hill Country. That job lasted 11 years, and Presley was introduced to Hays High School through the longtime rivalry between the two schools.
“We were in the same district as Hays and I knew Joe Graham (then principal of Hays High School) when our teams played together, but I wasn’t really sure where Hays was.”
In fact, when the call to work for Hays High School did come, Presley got lost on the way to the interview.
As principal of Hays High School, Presley admits he was a little uneasy with the Confederate battle flag as the spirit symbol of the school because, “that flag took on different meanings for different students.”
In typical Presley style, he called several students and teachers in to his office and asked them if the flag bothered them.
“They essentially said they just ignored it,” he said. “We downplayed the flag. I never used it on stationery. Thankfully, someone took a stand on it.”
In July 2000, the School Board voted to remove the Confederate battle flag as the spirit symbol of Hays High School.
“I did visit with some of the early graduates of the school and they said they chose to be the Rebels because with the consolidation (of Wimberley, Buda and Kyle), they considered themselves rebels; they wanted to build a spirit with all three schools instead of the Kyle Panthers, Buda Bulldogs and Wimberley Wildcats.”
Presley served as principal of Hays High School for five years and an offer to move to Central Administration Office to help hire teachers and staff for a fast-growth school district was accepted.
“I was ready for a change,” he said. Presley had worked for a year in the human resources department of Kerrville ISD before coming to Hays High School.
“I like people. I like teachers,” he said. “Having been a principal, I understand what they’re dealing with and I felt that gave me more credibility with them. I had walked in their shoes.”
Presley is known for never letting the sun go down on a problem.
“How quickly you respond is significant,” he said. “Listen to the person. Be accessible and keep a sense of humor. Never ever, ever, ever lose your cool. Never ever get angry at someone you’re working with.”
Presley said Joddie Witte, longtime Hays CISD Superintendent, taught him that whenever two people can sit down and talk about an issue, chances are very good that everything will turn out OK.
“Bob has been a very important part of this school district, serving in many leadership roles,” said Dr. Kirk London, Hays CISD Superintendent of Schools. “His abilities and support of our efforts will be missed. He has played a critical role in getting us to where we are now. I would like to acknowledge his contributions and thank him for that.”
Presley is famous for his recruiting abilities at job fairs. An active member of the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators, he has made contacts throughout the state. Combined with his impressive networking skills, teachers do come to Hays CISD.
“I’ve watched him at job fairs, with applicants crowded around him, jockeying to get his attention-and a teaching position,” Mrs. Hitt said.
And the teacher mentoring program, one that Presley helped start more than a decade ago and has brought statewide attention to this district, is what keeps the teachers in Hays CISD. The program pairs a veteran teacher with a rookie for an entire school year. Periodic Seminars for Success help new-to-profession teachers develop such skills as classroom management and students with special needs.
“Each teacher needs to have support,” he said. “When I was a principal, I later learned that one of my teachers was in crisis the entire year. I thought, ‘What if she had a mentor? That outcome could have been very different.”
Presley says his own mentors range from students to teachers to superintendents. And of course, there are his two children, both of whom are in the education field. His son, Scott, in fact, is assistant principal of New Braunfels High School.
After hiring dozens of principals and hundreds of teachers for Hays CISD, Presley has a few pearls of wisdom.
“If teachers feel supported, generally they will be successful,” he said. “It is the administrator’s responsibility to take a mediocre teacher and turn them into a superior teacher.”
“But sometimes it’s not the right mix,” he continued. “It’s not a personal thing. It’s about the kids. If the principal can’t bring this person around, it might be time to move on.”
“I’ve observed him giving sage advice when teachers struggle with the inevitable challenges of our profession,” Mrs. Hitt said. “And I’ve marveled at how he can calm an upset parent and support our administrators at the same time.”
Support, from Presley, as many in the district will confirm, often comes in the form of a thank you note. Whether it’s taking time to present at any of his meetings, or making the right call in a trying situation involving a student or parent, or excelling in one way or another, any member of Team Hays can rest assured he/she will find a “thank you” from Presley in his/her box.
“Team Hays will forever bear his stamp-if we’re lucky,” Mrs. Hitt said.
A celebration honoring Presley’s career will be Sunday, June 1, at 2:30 p.m. at the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center. The public is invited. Please RSVP Lynda Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By JULIE JEROME
Chief Information Officer – Hays CISD